Mossy Glen/Rainbow Falls/Castle Point/Hamilton Point Loop
Directions to trailhead
Take the New York State Thruway to Exit 18 (New Paltz). At the end of the exit ramp, turn left onto Route 299 and continue west through the Village of New Paltz. When you cross the bridge over the Wallkill River at the west end of the village, continue ahead on Route 299 (do not turn right towards the Mohonk Mountain House). In another 5.6 miles (from the Wallkill River bridge), Route 299 ends at a T-intersection with Route 44/55. Turn right here and follow Route 44/55 as it negotiates a very sharp hairpin turn and climbs to pass under the Trapps Bridge (a steel truss overpass). Continue for 3.0 miles past the Trapps Bridge to the entrance to Minnewaska State Park Preserve, on the left side of the road. After passing the entrance booth (a $10 parking fee is charged), continue straight ahead to the Awosting parking area.
Bus service to New Paltz from New York City, Nanuet, Newburgh and Kingston is available via Adirondack Trailways, www.trailwaysny.com (800) 776-7548. Limited weekday bus service to New Paltz from Kingston and Highland is available via Routes R and H of Ulster County Area Transit, www.co.ulster.ny.us/ucat (888) 827-8228. Ulster County Area Transit also offers bus service from the Metro-North station in Poughkeepsie to New Paltz via their Ulster-Poughkeepsie Link. Taxi service from New Paltz to Minnewaska is available from New Paltz Taxi, www.npztaxi.com (845) 255-1550.
NOTE: Due to storm damage from Hurricane Ida, Hamilton Point Carriage Road in Minnewaska State Park Preserve is currently closed to hikers. Until the road is reopened, hikers can use the Castle Point Carriage Road to return to Lake Minnewaska.
From the kiosk at the rear of the parking area, continue past the gate onto the Lower Awosting Carriage Road (also known as the Peters Kill Road). Almost immediately, you’ll see a sign on the left that marks the start of the yellow-blazed Mossy Glen Trail. Turn left and follow this trail, which passes through a beautiful forest of hemlock and mountain laurel. The trail soon approaches the carriage road, then turns left and descends. In a short distance, it reaches the Peters Kill, which it crosses on a one-log footbridge.
The trail turns right beyond the bridge and begins to parallel the stream. For the next mile, it remains close to the stream, crossing a number of wet areas and tributary streams on wooden bridges or on rocks. At times, the trail comes out on open rock slabs which slope into the stream. Rhododendron and white pine may be found along the trail, together with hemlock and mountain laurel. At one point, the trail passes through a tunnel under dense rhododendron. Although this trail section is not particularly difficult, you’ll want to take your time to enjoy the scenery.
After passing through a relatively open area, with stunted pitch pines and an understory of blueberries, the Mossy Glen Trail ends at the blue-blazed Blueberry Run Trail (the junction is marked by a cairn). Turn right and follow this blue-blazed trail downhill, soon crossing the Peters Kill on another one-log footbridge, with an attractive cascade on the left. The trail climbs rather steeply to cross the Lower Awosting Carriage Road, then continues through mountain laurel and hemlock. After another steep climb, the Blueberry Run Trail ends at a junction with the blue-blazed Jenny Lane Trail.
Turn left and follow the Jenny Lane Trail, which soon begins to run close to the edge of the ridge, coming out occasionally on open rocks, with views over Litchfield Ledge to the east. (You’ll be following this ledge later on in the hike.) In about three-quarters of a mile, you’ll reach a power line. Follow the trail as it turns right, runs along the power line for a short distance, then turns left and continues on a wide path – the remnants of an old woods road. In one spot, the trail has been rerouted to a footpath on the left to avoid a badly eroded section of the old road. In a third of a mile, the trail bears left and descends rather steeply. At the base of the descent, it bears left onto a grassy woods road, which soon reaches the Lower Awosting Carriage Road.
Turn right and follow the Lower Awosting Carriage Road, crossing a bridge over Fly Brook. Just past the brook crossing, the orange-blazed Rainbow Falls Trail begins on the left. Turn left, leaving the carriage road, and continue on the Rainbow Falls Trail, which descends briefly, then ascends steadily over slanted slabs of conglomerate rock dotted with pitch pines. In this area, the trail is marked with cairns as well as orange blazes. Follow the trail as it turns left, crosses a stream, and continues to climb over slanted rock ledges. From the top, the Catskills may be seen in the distance.
After a short but steep descent, the Rainbow Falls Trail comes out on an open rock ledge. To the right is Huntington Ravine, with Lichtfield Ledge beyond. You’ll hear the sound of falling water, as Rainbow Falls is just below. The trail continues to descend. After a very steep descent along a rock outcrop, the trail levels off in a rocky area. Soon, Rainbow Falls comes into view. Here the water drops from overhanging rock ledges, forming a cool mist. You’ll want to spend some time at this beautiful site!
The trail now bears left, descends to cross a small stream, then climbs steadily. After climbing rock steps, the trail reaches the Upper Awosting Carriage Road. It crosses the road, bears left to climb a ledge, then turns right and runs parallel to the edge of the escarpment. Soon, you’ll reach a rock ledge to the right of the trail that offers a panoramic view, with Huntington Ravine just below, and the Catskills in the distance.
The Rainbow Falls Trail now climbs gradually through a dense forest of hemlock and mountain laurel, then bears left and continues through an area of sparser vegetation, with pitch pines growing from cracks in the conglomerate bedrock. There are some short, steep descents where you’ll need to use your hands for balance.
Finally, you’ll come out on a wide, open rock ledge, with a panoramic view of Lake Awosting, with Sam’s Point beyond. This is another special place where you’ll want to take some time to savor the view. When you’re ready to continue, follow the trail as it bends left and soon begins to run along the edge of a cliff. To the right, you can see Castle Point – your next destination.
Soon, the Rainbow Falls Trail ends at an intersection with the Castle Point Carriage Road. Turn left and follow the carriage road for about half a mile, passing numerous viewpoints to the right. Immediately after the Blueberry Run Path (marked by a sign) leaves to the left, you’ll reach Castle Point – the highest viewpoint in Minnewaska State Park Preserve. The view from here is spectacular, with the Wallkill Valley to the left and Lake Awosting to the right. Again, you’ll want to take a break and enjoy the views.
Follow the lilac-blazed Scenic Trail as it descends precipitously from Castle Point over steep ledges. You’ll need to use your hands and carefully follow the lilac blazes. After a more gradual descent, you’ll reach the Hamilton Point Carriage Road. Turn left onto the road, which is marked with an “H” on yellow-diamond blazes.
In a third of a mile, you’ll reach Hamilton Point – another fabulous viewpoint, with deeply-fissured rocks separated from the main cliffs. To the left, the wall of cliffs in the distance is the ridge of Gertrude’s Nose. Continue along the road for another two miles, passing more spectacular views to the right. In about a mile, you’ll cross under a power line and soon reach Echo Rock, a particularly outstanding viewpoint. Just beyond, the road briefly splits into two routes, which soon rejoin each other. You’ll soon notice a line of cliffs to the left of the road.
Continue ahead (bearing right) at the next junction, then bear left at the following junction, joining the yellow-diamond-blazed Millbrook Mountain Carriage Road. In another quarter mile, you’ll reach the Lake Minnewaska Carriage Road, which circles Lake Minnewaska. Turn left and follow this road along the lake. When you reach the swimming area, continue ahead (following the sign to the “parking lot”) as the road climbs to an intersection with the Sunset Carriage Road. Turn sharply left and follow the Sunset Carriage Road, which descends on switchbacks, passing a broad viewpoint on the way. At the base of the descent, turn right, cross the bridge over the Peters Kill, then turn left and follow a wide gravel path parallel to the park access road back to the Awosting parking area where the hike began.